National Gallery

28 12 2007

Just went to the National Gallery and I am so happy. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen these painting up close and I am completely overwhelmed.

It was gorgeous.

I have seen these paintings in books, on the net, on postcards and ‘what is art presentations’ but never for real and I was completely floored. It was beautiful.

jw_degas.jpg (Degas, Combing the Hair, 1896)

These images do not do it justice. There is an incredible power when one experiences a painting first hand. The color is unbelievable. When I first saw the Van Gogh, I was shocked. I had seen this painting a million times and I’d always wondered why so many found it beautiful. But when you see the yellow he used, it was crazy. I had never seen it that way. The prints I had seen where always dark and muted. This was a luminous yellow. I had never seen a yellow like that. And the texture. No picture can show the kind of texture on the paintings. How the movement of the brush adds to the light. The center of these sunflowers he did impasto, mimicking the softness. Unbelievable.

sunflowersvangogh.jpg (Van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1888)

And one of the most interesting things about the gallery is that the collection particularly filled with people was the 1700s-1900s. Upon viewing all the paintings, one is given a breath of where the movement is going. It is the movement away from representation towards experience. It is an inward movement. The artists in the mid 1200s to 1500s where obsessed with detail…with capturing what we see. Then, Da Vinci happened…and it was no longer about how we see, but how it is that we experience what we see. How the eye changes what it sees, depending on what one experiences. The light, the shadow, the depth change. And we experience something quite profound.

davincithevirgin.jpg (The Virgin of the Rocks, 1491-1508)

The image is informed by something from within, and as a viewer, one connects to it beyond the eye. This painting was unbelievable. The light seemed to emanate from the skin of the subjects.

And these paintings are humongous. This was around 4×6 feet. It is as though you are enveloped by it.

cezanne_bathers.jpg (Cezanne, Bathers,1894-1905)

One little boy, probably not even five, ran up to this Cezanne and stared at it for a full five seconds, mouth agape, in total awe. Then he looked back at his parents who were fumbling with the stroller of his baby sister…and he had this expression of “Is anyone seeing what I’m seeing?” He kept on looking back at his parents who were too busy attending to his sister…until finally, he ran back to them. And I thought, imagine the ability to recognize beauty. It is inborn. Part of our DNA. It is something that we all know before we even think about why we know.

picasso.jpg (Pablo Picasso, Child with a Dove,1901)

And it was as though, everything I learned in school was erased. You want to learn art, just go and see it. And keep walking until something grabs you beyond the chatter of your mind and makes you quiet. And you know you are moved. And you know you are changed. Beyond knowing why you know.

I am totally moved. I can only hope to achieve even just an ounce of what these masters have achieved. The ability to channel every experience they felt unto something physical. I am beyond words.



One response

8 01 2008
dan fone

i went there recently and had a similar response. utterly delighted by the degas paintings, amid others. i recall in my application to do this course i wrote about the level playing field of digital art and how much i liked that. i liked the lack of pilgrimage to go see web based art. then when i went to new york i saw lots of paintings i know very well from books but saw for the first time for real. i was a bit like that kid looking for my parents grinning for days when i was in new york.

i was intrigued to discover that the picassos i saw there didn’t move me that much. they’re great but i’d seen them, i felt. they weren’t so much more of a big deal than in the books. i felt a bit like hugging them like old friends but it was more familiarity than joy that inspired that. the de kooning paintings however, amazed me. i’d never thought that much of his women series but actually seeing the one they had at moma was wonderful. the colours reacted together totally differently. the marks looked like they had actual energy. i looked into it and thought that much more about the woman it was depicting.

anyway, the thing i’m pondering is, those paintings have serious craft and discipline as their foundation, and that’s aprt of the reason they’re so bloody good. does this craft have a place in digital art in the same way? in comparison, a lot of modern art looks like one line jokes to me. is this a symptom of the age or the media?

ps – is that a deliberate smiley face on the bottom left of your blog page?

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